Quick Sips review of “Birch Daughter”

The awesome Charles Payseur wrote a wonderful review of my story “Birch Daughter” (he also reviews other great Fireside stories in that post):
 
“Sweet and with a great sense of magic sweeping over the setting, the piece is quiet but resilient, full of a will to reach an ending full of warmth, comfort, and love.”
 
I really appreciate Charles’s reviews, so it means a lot to me to see that he truly understood my story, and found levels in it that I didn’t even anticipate. I mean:
 
“It’s a story that almost seems easy until you think about it. Until you realize just how hard it is and just how much the characters are risking. And yet their certainty is contagious, their hope infectious in all the best of ways.”
 
I love love love seeing this kind of responses to my work. Thank you, Charles. 
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Fireside Quarterly!

I received my contributor copy of Fireside Quarterly already a couple of weeks ago, but life has been so busy I’m only blogging about this now. But isn’t this magazine beautiful! Such great design. Some stories, including mine, have a fold-out of the illustration, which is super cool.

Of course, Fireside Quarterly is also full of excellent stories and nonfiction. I’m so proud I have a story in this gorgeous print magazine in addition to the online version! And how amazing is it that Satu Kettunen’s illustration for my story is on the cover <3

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In other news: I was quiet about it, but I did Nanowrimo again this year, and completed the zero draft of a new space opera novel. I’m excited to start revising the novel sometime next spring when it’s had enough time to rest!

“Birch Daughter” out in Fireside!

Tuesday was a happy day — my story “Birch Daughter” appeared in the wondrous Fireside Magazine.

You can read “Birch Daughter” here!

If you like Finnish-inspired folklore, forests, bears, and queer women, this one’s for you. Fireside describes it as “a magical short story about where the search for heart and home takes us”.

My father told me that the spell was too strong to break, that I should never trust the forest-folk. But the thought of my mother trapped within a gnarled birch tree in the far north was too much for me to bear.

“Birch Daughter” is set in the same ‘verse as my poems Raw Honey and Wolf Daughter (both published in Strange Horizons). I get a very specific pleasure from spinning my Finnish heritage into stories in English.

Also, isn’t the illustration amazing? It’s by the Finnish artist Satu Kettunen; I love it so much. Satu really managed to capture the atmosphere of my story and incorporated lovely details in the artwork. Having such amazing art for my story is a dizzying thing!

Finncon 2018 programme

It’s… been quite a year, to put it mildly. I have been utterly neglecting this blog in favour of Twitter, even though a lot of things have been going on (such as finishing a novel and starting agent submissions… and also mental health shenanigans that have made it harder to post). I don’t have the energy for writing a recap, either.

However! The Finnish SFF Finncon will be held in Turku in a week and a half, and I will be participating in some programme items! You can find me at the following:

Sat 14 Jul, 14-14.45: Minne menet, genre? (paneeli spefin nykytilasta ja trendeistä) (in Finnish, obvs) [NB: edited time change; was previously at 11, now at 14]

Sun 15 Jul, 14-14.45: A beginner’s guide to story submissions in international SFF (lecture by meeee; basically will talk about things I would’ve found useful when starting to submit stories/poems)

Sun 15 Jul, 15-15.45: Left Hand of Darkness, and beyond (panel on gender, sexuality and language in SFF)

Will of course be at the con otherwise as well. Do come and say hi if you recognise me :)

Award eligibility and year in review

I didn’t have much published this year, but here are my award-eligible works from 2017, one short story and four poems:

Short story:
07/2017 “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth” in Cosmos Pen, the English special issue of Finnish SFF magazine Kosmoskynä. Short story, 2065 words.
— This is a bit hard to get hold of since it’s in a Finnish print magazine, but I’m happy to provide anyone who asks with a digital copy of my story.

Poetry:
01/2017 “The Queen, After” in Through the Gate.

08/2017 “Sunharvest Triptych” in the anthology Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Wieland.

10/2017 “Artemis–” in Issue 1 of Blossomry.

10/2017 “When They Belittle Your Nature” in Issue 1 of Blossomry.

The poems are all eligible for the short poem category of the Rhysling Award.

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YEAR IN REVIEW

My writing goals for 2017 were:

  • Finish revising novel; get everything in shape for submission and start submitting it to literary agents.
  • Get back to the poetry collection thing; revise the collection, try to get the ms in shape and submitted.
  • Write more short stories.
  • Get back into the poetry habit.
  • Submit more poetry and stories.
  • Look over previous Nanowrimo novels, make plans for the potentials (rework as novel / condense into novella or novelette).
  • Have fun with writing. Play with it too.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers in the bad way. We all have different paths.

Well. Ambitious goals, considering I’m also working on a PhD, and this year was difficult in many other ways too. I obviously didn’t succeed with all of my writing goals, thus.

However: the novel is almost entirely revised to be the best I can make it. I’ve worked on it a lot this year: most of my writing hours were spent on it, which is partly why I’ve not succeeded so well at the other goals. Writing a novel is a long slog, and takes a lot of energy and time. But the time I’ve spent on the novel has paid off: the novel is at the polishing stage, and – importantly – I still love it. I’m looking forward to finishing it in early 2018.

I did not have the energy/time to start submitting the novel to agents, or even to properly start doing my agent research. But that is something that I don’t want to rush: the novel has to be good first.

Re the poetry collection mentioned in my goals: I did basically nothing to it because the novel gobbled up my time/energy. I will eventually try to do stuff to it, though.

I didn’t write many short stories – again, because of the novel. BUT I did complete one new short story, wrote part of another (should get back to it!), and am almost done with a third.

I did not get back into the poetry habit, sadly. I wrote 13 poems, most of which are just short things and not too many of them good. I’d like to get more poetry written: should do some poetry exercises in the new year.

I didn’t submit that much stuff in 2017. 17 poetry subs (14 rejections, 2 acceptances, 1 pending), and 12 story subs (11 rejections, 1 joyous acceptance to Fireside). I have no stories out on sub right now: should try to fix that soon. And also write more stories!

I did not have time to do anything about my previous Nanowrimo novels – but I wrote a new one instead in November. It’s not very good, but it’s proof that I can still plonk out 50,000 words in a month.

As for my final goals for 2017: I haven’t played around as much with writing as I’d have wanted, mostly – again – because I’ve been busy with the novel. But I have managed to compare myself less with other writers. I’ve been so damn busy with work and other life things that it’s a wonder I managed to get through 2017.

Every creative word written is a win, especially when you’re working on a PhD. Really, I’ve done a lot this year even though the brainweasels tell me it’s not enough. My novel is almost submittable – I’ve done some other creative writing on the side – and even though I haven’t submitted much stuff, I submitted something. I kept going, kept writing.

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My writing goals for 2018, then:

  • Finish novel revisions; send it out to agents. Revise again as needed.
  • Do something about the poetry collection.
  • Look over previous Nanowrimo novels, make plans for the potentials (rework as novel / condense into novella or novelette).
  • Write for yourself – write amazingly self-indulgent things that make your heart sing.
  • Make time for writing. Don’t shuffle writing to the bottom of the priority list.
  • But also: be gentle to yourself and accept that your pace will be slower because of all your other commitments.

Happy New Year, dear readers. I hope it’s a better year, a happier year, a more hopeful year. No matter what, I will keep writing words of hope and kindness in the face of hardship.

“Birch Daughter” sold to Fireside

This news is a couple of weeks old, but it’s wonderful news despite that: my story “Birch Daughter” has sold to the amazing magazine Fireside. I’ve loved the stories in Fireside for a long time and am super excited that my story will appear there in 2018!

I should write my award eligibility post soon (it will probably be after Christmas at this point): I’ve been procrastinating doing it because of busyness and brain weasels. Things have been super hectic and stressful after getting home from my two-month visit to the UK, alas. But it’s all finally quieting down a bit: I’m on holiday, and hope to have the energy to write a lot. In any case, getting the Fireside news has buoyed me up in this dark season. And we’re already past Midwinter Day. I can do this. We can do this.

New poems out in Blossomry

Poetry news, yay! Two of my poems recently appeared in Issue 1 of the wonderful new magazine Blossomry, which publishes one-line poems:

Artemis–

When They Belittle Your Nature

I highly recommend reading the whole issue in order, though, since it presents a lovely kaleidoscope of poetry. One-line poems are super quick to read, too!

I’m very happy to have two poems in this first issue. I had actually not written explicitly one-line poems before, but I wrote some specifically with Blossomry in mind when submissions were open. So I’m especially pleased two of them found a home!

I look forward to more Blossomry in the future. Such a lovely concept.

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In other news, oh hi, it’s been a while since my last bloggings. Life has been giving me the ridiculously busy treatment: I’m currently in Cambridge, England, on a two-month research trip for my PhD. (Going back to Finland at the start of December.) As you might imagine, work has been time- and energy-consuming: I haven’t done this intense and lengthy a bout of manuscript research, well, ever. It’s amazing and I’m getting so much work done for my PhD, but it’s also very tiring!

Despite that, I’ve managed to get some writing done too. In October I finished draft 4.1 of my Beauty and the Beast inspired novel WIP: it’s almost ready to start submitting, but I’m saving all of that for when I get back to Finland. Instead, now in November, it’s Nanowrimo time! I just passed 10k words and am quite pleased. My novel draft is terrible but at this point I just really need to get some sort of new words out and not worry about quality – I’ve been doing so much revision for the Beauty and the Beast novel that my zero-draft-production skills need some brushing up. :)

My Worldcon drabble(s)

It’s around a month since Worldcon (what! how is it only a month; a gazillion things have happened since then…), so this is probably a good time to post the drabble I shared at the “Why Do Finns Love Their Drabbles” panel on Sunday 13 August.

I wrote a drabble in English, and then, out of a translator’s interest, translated it into Finnish – keeping the drabble definition of 100 words, of course. I discovered – not suprisingly – that I had to add almost a quarter more words to the Finnish version. The bare-bones translation only came to around 75 words. The wonders of an agglutinative language! I can’t see how you’d be able to translate a drabble (adhering to the 100-word format) from English to Finnish without collaborating closely with the original author: to get to 100 Finnish words, there’s so much stuff to add that translating becomes even more like rewriting than usual.

It’s far harder to write drabbles in English, too, in my opinion: you can get way more of an actual story into 100 words in Finnish. I can see why drabbles are so popular in Finland! Anyway, I thought I’d share both versions. Those of you who know both languages will be able to appreciate the extra details I added to the Finnish version. :)

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Marketing Trick

The sign said: “First poem free!”. The poems were printed in green ink, sold by a woman on a street corner. Why would anyone want a second poem? But I can never say no to free stuff.

I read the poem that night. It was terrible, but I went back to the street corner the next day. I needed another poem. It cost 50 euros.

I went back the day after. And the day after.

By the time I realised the ink was addictive, it was too late. I needed more poems. Needed them more than my life savings.

Right?

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TRANSLATION:

Markkinointikikka

Kyltissä luki “Ensimmäinen runo ilmaiseksi!”. Runot oli painettu vihreällä musteella; niitä myi mitäänsanomattoman oloinen nainen kadunkulmalla työmatkani varrella. Miksi ihmeessä kukaan edes haluaisi toisen runon? Mutta enhän minä ikinä pysty kieltäytymään ilmaisesta sälästä. Nappasin runon mukaani.

Luin runon samana iltana. Se oli järkyttävän huono ja lisäksi paperiarkin muste takertui kummallisesti sormenpäihini. Palasin silti takaisin kadunkulmalle seuraavana päivänä. Minun oli pakko saada toinen runo. Se maksoi 50 euroa. Maksoin mukisematta.

Palasin seuraavanakin päivänä. Ja sitä seuraavana.

Siinä vaiheessa kun tajusin musteen sisältävän koukuttavia ainesosia, oli jo liian myöhäistä. Tarvitsin lisää runoja. Tarvitsin niitä paljon enemmän kuin pitkään karttuneita säästöjäni.

Eikö vaan?

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Sunvault is out!

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation has its release day today, 29 August! (It’s still just about the 29th in Finland as I type this at a few minutes to midnight.)

Get your copy in ebook or paperback! (Other retailers also have it!)

I got my contributor’s copy already two weeks ago, but alas, have not had the time to start reading it yet. SOOOON. The table of contents looks so enticing – a lot of amazing writers in this anthology.

My poem, “Sunharvest Triptych”, was written at the end of May in 2016 – written specifically for the exciting call for solarpunk sent out by the Sunvault editors Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland. I’m still so amazed that this poem got included in the anthology, especially since I almost didn’t submit it in the first place!

The process for this poem was more structure-oriented than most of my poetry. The three-part structure was there from the first sketch, and a basic idea for what the sections should contain, and some worldbuilding notes such as “solar energy harvested in summer primarily, stored and used through winter (cf. potato stores and grains in the olden days)”. But the sketch was very much a sketch, not a full poem yet. Just ideas coalescing into words. Usually the first drafts of my poems come out with words and ideas in one intense burst, but this time there was more of a cerebral process.

I wrote the first proper draft a couple of days later; it already looked pretty similar to the published version. I took it to my writing group in early June, feeling very insecure about the whole poem because my brain was telling me it was boring and badly written. But my fellow writers’ encouraging and useful feedback convinced me I should revise and submit the poem – and so I did. I’m very grateful to Helsinki Writers’ Group: I would probably have self-rejected this poem if not for the feedback I got. Thanks, peeps. <3

Sunvault-001-Norja-300x300

Post-con feels

I should’ve written this post a week ago but I was waiting for the exhaustion to ebb a little. Well, it hasn’t ebbed, just increased (my summer of Too Many Things has continued), so I guess I’m doing this now. Here we go: a Worldcon retrospective, written by a drop-down-tired Sara. (Partially compiled from my Facebook entries re the con.)

Worldcon! Worldcon was amazing. It was everything I’d hoped for and I can’t even fathom how that’s possible.

It would have been less awesome without the wondrous Uppsala conference, though. I made friends in Uppsala who it was great to hang out at Worldcon with. <3 I also met many more awesome people at Worldcon, some of them people I've known on Twitter for a while, some of them new peeps. I'm a bit stunned I got to hang out with so many amazing writerpeople. It was also lovely to catch up with old friends and people I know from corners of the internet other than Twitter!

I listened to a lot of great panels – some of them were too 101 level for me, but many of them useful and fun, too. I made SO MANY NOTES. My current bullet journal, begun at the start of August, is half full of them.

Also, as a particularly noteworthy programme item: the SFF poetry open mic on Wednesday, organised by my awesome friend Brandon O'Brien, was a wonderful thing. So many people sharing speculative poetry, some of them for the first time! Wondrous.

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I'm happy with how my own programme items went.

1) The polyamory in fiction panel on Thursday was great: a big audience, and it was cool to give lots of recs and discuss the pitfalls and how-tos of writing poly relationships in SFF. This was my first panel ever and so I'm especially glad it went well!

2) Also on Thursday, the speculative poetry panel – it was absolutely amazing. I did all right as moderator – wasn't too badly nervous, even, once it was happening – and my panelists were just brilliant. Mari Ness, Arkady Martine, Julia Rios – such great conversation! It was basically a giant squeefest on why speculative poetry is wonderful, what's going on in the field, and how marginalised creators are among the driving forces in it. I'm so happy I proposed this panel for Worldcon. Much joy and so much inspiration to write and submit more speculative poetry! All-female, all-queer panel btw.

3) At Sunday's drabble panel (Why Do Finns Love Their Drabbles), there weren't that many people in the audience, but it was lots of fun nonetheless. It was pretty amazing to be on a panel with Johanna Sinisalo! And great fun to discuss drabbles and microfiction, and the problems with translating such short stuff. (I wrote a drabble for the panel and translated it into Finnish – will post both versions soon!)

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The queues were not fun (queuecon/jonocon :D), and there were some glitches in communication and such, but overall I was really happy with how the con went from a visitor's and programme participant's POV. It was especially cool to get to watch the Hugo Award ceremony live!

The downsides: the post-con exhaustion. I've had a hard time getting back into normal life again. I mean: The first two weeks of August were such an overflow of SFF community and thinking about stories, about the beauty of words. I felt so bereft last week; still do, to an extent. But also rejuvenated, excited, so ready to continue the final revisions for my novel.

Most importantly, perhaps: I feel like I belong in the SFF community. Truly belong, both in the international and the Finnish communities. It feels really amazing.